The Watercolour Drawings of British Wild Flowers by Margaret Rebecca Dickinson

The study of plants was considered to be a very ladylike and genteel activity in Victorian times. Favoured with drawing and painting skills and the slower pace of life, an accomplished lady botanist of the time could produce wonderfully detailed and accurate illustrations of flowers.

Margaret Rebecca Dickinson was one of those many talented Victorian ladies, spending her days collecting and drawing every plant specimen she could find as she travelled around the British Isles.

Very little is known about her life other than she collected and painted in watercolour over four hundred and fifty wild flowers. From the manuscript catalogue of her collection she did most of the drawings between the years 1846 and 1874.

Norham on TweedNorham on Tweed

During part of that period she lived at Wetheral in Cumbria, but she appears to have moved to Norham on Tweed, Northumberland, in 1868. She never married and remained at Norham until her death on the 9th December 1918 at the age of 98. Her family grave can still be found in the churchyard of St Cuthbert’s Church, Norham.

Many of the plants she painted were of local origin – Northumberland, Durham, Cumbria, Berwickshire and the Scottish Borders. She also visited the Cirencester area, Yorkshire, North Wales and Ireland.  Her visits to Green Hill, Kent in 1858 and 1860 led to her collecting a number of scarse orchids.

Miss Dickinson bequeathed her collection of plants and watercolour drawings to the Natural History Society of Northumbria, where they are housed in the Society’s herbarium and archives at the Hancock Museum.

There are 468 images from the Margaret Dickinson collection on the online gallery. The accompanying text gives a brief description of the illustration with the plant name recorded by Miss Dickinson and its modern equivalent.

Dickinson would collect her specimen, draw it and record the details in her manuscript catalogue which accompanies the collection. The catalogue gives further information such as the date of collection and the location. This information has been included in the text.

Read the article Margaret Rebecca Dickinson: Victorian Botanist and Plant Illustrator by Jacqueline Banerjee on the Victorian Web.